-Quarterback Jameis Winston made things happen with his legs.
He had two runs of 14 yards and they came in situations where he needed to keep drives alive. His 55 rushing yards overall were a new career high and third-most by a Buccaneers' quarterback, period. Winston even notched his first rushing touchdown of the season as he dove head-first into the end zone in the second quarter. It was the ninth rushing touchdown of his career, which ties him for sixth-most by a quarterback since he entered the league in 2015.
"You say he was running around like crazy – they were playing a lot of two-man [deep defense] today," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said of Winston's rushing efforts. "One thing about two-man is the quarterback is not accounted for. Jameis was also our leading rusher today and he made some big plays with his feet. I don't have any problem with the way Jameis scrambled today. He made some really big plays. [He] started off extremely fast."
-Winston wasn't the only one with a rushing score on the day.
In fact, the Bucs had a total of three rushing touchdowns for the first time since 2012. Each score came from a different player with wide receiver DeSean Jackson actually getting into the end zone first to kick things off. Winston faked a handoff then instead handed off to Jackson in the backfield on an end-around play that saw him go 14 yards into the end zone for the Bucs' first touchdown of the game. From there, Winston scored in the second quarter on the above-mentioned play and then the last rushing score came from rookie running back Ronald Jones II. It was Jones's first NFL touchdown as he scored from two yards out after a 13-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 6:30.
Though rushing totals were down from last game, the run game was still a factor in other ways, like time of possession. The Bucs' bested the Browns 37:43 to 30:27 in that regard. The Bucs are taking longer on their offensive drives, therefore allowing the defense to stay off the field longer, which has to aid in the balance and effectiveness of the defense as a whole as well.
Speaking of the defense, while they excelled on third (and fourth) down, they were hit hard when linebacker Kwon Alexander went down with a knee injury, only to be followed up by another knee injury to fellow MIKE linebacker Jack Cichy. Alexander had had a monster game prior to exiting early. He had five solo tackles by the halfway point of the first quarter. He ended up with seven combined tackles and a pass defensed before he got hurt – a good day for anyone despite not even playing the whole first half. The rookie Jack Cichy came in as relief at but then suffered a knee injury of his own – the severity of which isn't known. Cichy had missed all of last season at Wisconsin due to an ACL injury. The Bucs played the majority of the second half with only four linebackers available. This was all on top of both defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Vinny Curry being sidelined before the game with injury as well.
Though they took a hit, the defense didn't break and had one of the best outings they've had all season. They didn't allow a single point in the first half. They registered five sacks of Browns' quarterback Baker Mayfield – the most since Week 10 of last season against the Jets when they had six sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul has continued his consistency, notching a sack in his fifth straight game. He now has six sacks on the season, which ties him for sixth-most in the league this year. It was encouraging to see the defense bring a more balanced attack despite the injuries.
-The Bucs playcalling in general was more aggressive on Sunday.
They went for it on fourth down, they were 100% inside the red zone, going three-for-three and yes, they elected to attempt a 59-yard field goal in overtime to win the game. Really though, it made the most sense. The clock was running out in the overtime period, with just under two minutes to play. It was going to be the Bucs' last possession so if they didn't score, the best they could have hoped for was a tie. And Coach Koetter didn't want a tie. The result was a 59-yard game-winning field goal for kicker Chandler Catanzaro, marking the second-longest field goal in Bucs' history and the longest overtime field goal ever in the history of the NFL.
"A couple things were at work there," Coach Koetter explained. "First, [kicker Chandler Catanzaro] made it from 61 [yards] in practice this week. So, I knew he had the distance in him. Chandler had a rough day earlier. With the timing going to the 10-minute overtime, that's the first time we've played in it since then. We weren't going to get the ball back. So, if we didn't make that one, we weren't getting it back. You either go for the win or hope you tie. The way that game was going, we were going for the win. But, I knew he could make it if he hit it."